Tennessee experiences highest unemployment rate in state history during COVID-19 crisis

Tennessee experiences highest unemployment rate in state history during COVID-19 crisis
New unemployment claims in Tenn. (Source: TN Dept. of Labor & Workforce Development)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The coronavirus pandemic is responsible for a new Tennessee state record, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

New data released Thursday from the department shows a preliminary seasonally-adjusted statewide unemployment rate of 14.7 percent for April 2020 -- an unprecedented spike of 11.4 percentage points from March’s revised rate of 3.3 percent.

Prior to the pandemic, Tennessee’s all-time highest seasonally-adjusted rate was 12.9 percent, which occurred in back-to-back months in December 1982 and January 1983.

The DOL reports Tennessee’s total nonfarm employment decreased by 376,900 jobs from March to April. The largest losses were in leisure/hospitality, manufacturing and professional/business services sectors.

Ove the last 12 months, Tennessee lost 341,000 nonfarm jobs. Similarly to month-to-month data, the largest losses were in the leisure/hospitality, manufacturing and professional/business services sectors.

Since March 15, Tennessee saw an unprecedented surge in unemployment claims. There have been 532,580 new unemployment claims filed in the state of Tennessee between March 15 and May 16, according to the department.

During the week of May 16, the state paid more than 319,000 claimants nearly $358 million in benefits. Here’s how it’s broken down:

  • Total Claims Paid: $319,574
  • Total Payments: $358,992,180
  • TN Payments: $63,875,235
  • Federal Payments: $295,116,945
The Investigators: What happens when state unemployment funds dry up in a matter weeks?

The most recent data entered from the week of May 16 - totaling to 28,692 - shows the lowest number of claims reported since the week of March 21. This is the seventh week in a row showing a decline in new weekly claims.

Week Week Ending Date New Claims Filed Continued Claims
10 March 14, 2020 2,702 16,342
11 March 21, 2020 39,096 16,098
12 March 28, 2020 94,492 34,570
13 April 4, 2020 116,141 112,438
14 April 11, 2020 74,772 199,910
15 April 18, 2020 68,968 267,053
16 April 25, 2020 43,792 324,543
17 May 2, 2020 37,319 321,571
18 May 9, 2020 29,308 325,095
19 May 16, 2020 28,692 314,487

***New Claims Filed: The number of individuals filing new unemployment claims for the week.

***Continued Claims: The number of claims continued with weekly certifications.

Below is the data broken down into regions for the week ending May 16:

Local Workforce Development Area New Claims Filed
Greater Memphis 6,081
Northwest Tennessee 608
Southwest Tennessee 875
Northern Middle Tennessee 7,768
Southern Middle Tennessee 1,385
Upper Cumberland 673
Southeast Tennessee 2,469
East Tennessee 3,183
Northeast Tennessee 872
West TN Mobile American Job Center 15
Middle TN Mobile American Job Center 92
East TN Mobile American Job Center 5

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